An excellent reputation is one of the best marketing strategies that a law firm can launch. A law firm needs to focus on its reputation to be on top of its game. Many lawyers relied on face-to-face referrals as a marketing strategy for a long time. Legal consumers today have a different ‘buying’ behavior making reputation management a focal point in the success of a law firm.
Law firms today are encountering many areas of law firm operations that were not present or were not as popular decades ago. Reputation management is one such area. Reputation management ensures your law firm gains and retains an excellent reputation to grow its brand.
What is Reputation Management for a Law Firm?
Reputation is how people think of who you are. In today’s digital age, it is how artificial intelligence systems portray who you are.
Reputation management is controlling and influencing a law firm’s reputation. It is an effort to change how potential clients view or think of a law firm online. It is a way to be on top of other firms in the legal market and gain the trust of potential clients.
Reputation management has initially been part of public relations. Today, reputation management has become an integral part of a law firm’s digital marketing efforts. With the growing use of the internet and social media, search results have become the core of a law firm’s reputation.
Many law firms have ignored the importance of their online reputations, creating a distance with potential clients.
The reputation of a brand and/ or company is vital to any business. Maintaining a good reputation is more critical for a law firm.
As a lawyer, you do everything to manage your appearance and reputation in person. You always appear well-groomed, dressed in well-pressed suits, and in many instances drive a nice car. You always make it a point to look professional to project a successful law practice.
The way you present your law firm online is as important as how you present yourself in person.
Many law firms tend to ignore the importance of an online reputation, not realizing that it can cost them getting new clients. It can be because bad reviews can be out of control.
Many steps need to be made to improve your law firm’s digital perception or online reputation.
It entails creating a professionally-designed website with relevant information about the law firm and its legal services.
Professional website design is one element of reputation management that you can control. You need to have a professional-looking website that can automatically create a positive perception of your law firm. Close to 50% of potential clients will create an initial impression of your law firm based on the credibility of your website.
A credible website should be based on good visual aesthetics and loading time. It should only take about 0.05 seconds for a potential client to create an impression of your law firm, and about 95% of these impressions are based on the design of the same.
An unprofessional and outdated website will automatically create a negative impression of your law firm. Even if your law firm can be one of the best in the city with an excellent case record, outdated website design can ruin your online reputation.
Your website should also be fast-loading and mobile device-friendly. Based on statistics, most potential clients will access your website from a mobile device. 80% of your potential clients will discontinue engaging with your content if they encounter problems accessing your site from a Smartphone or tablet.
It is, therefore, essential to analyze the modern layout and design of your website, remove all the large blocks of text and clutter to ensure easy navigation.
Smooth user experience on your website and making it easy for potential clients to find the information they need when they land on your website will create a positive perception and reputation for your law firm.
Listen to your past clients.
This is often done by surveying past clients. It will provide a law firm with its word-of-mouth reputation to identify opportunities and recommendations to work on.
This entails listing your law firm on the appropriate online directories to build and enhance credibility. Being listed on these sites is not enough. You need to claim the listing.
Your law firm should be listed on third-party websites such as Google, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Better Business Bureau, Social Media Platforms, (like Facebook and Twitter) LinkedIn, and in online legal directories (Avvo, Lawyers.com, FindLaw, etc.).
Many potential clients rely on these sites and platforms when they need legal services. Thus, it is essential to be listed on these sites to generate leads to your website.
Your law firm needs to claim your site to avoid any misinformation published on the web about your law firm. It means that you need to be the one to list your law firm on these sites or platforms.
Potential clients rely on these sites and platforms when they need information about your law firm. Thus, if your business hours and contact numbers are listed incorrectly, you may lose the opportunity of signing-up a new client.
If a potential client cannot reach your law firm based on the incorrect information on a listing, they will not bother to try and get your correct contact information. They will most likely simply move to the next law firm on the list with the right contact number.
Claiming the list on third-party sites will make you stand out from the competition because, aside from including the right contact information and business hours, you can add more information about your legal services and upload some pictures. All this will create a positive perception, enhance professionalism, and build an excellent reputation for your law firm.
• Generating reviews for your law firm
This is done by placing a “Review Us” button on the law firm’s website. This enables clients to share their experiences with your law firm and their peers.
When a potential client is searching for a law firm, looking up reviews about the law firm is one of the numbers of things he or she is going to look up before deciding on which law firm to hire.
A law firm with more positive than negative reviews correlates to having a good reputation.
Given the nature of their business, it is not always easy for a law firm to gain good reviews. Many clients have unrealistic expectations from the law firms they are working with and often tend to leave negative reviews.
As a law firm, it is crucial to realize the importance of reputation management and online reviews if you want to bring in as many clients as possible. More importantly, you should know how to ask for reviews and how to respond to positive and negative reviews.
Client reviews are, without a doubt, the most influential factor that can affect the reputation of your law firm on the internet. Customers of products and services read reviews before they decide to buy a product or service. The same is real with law firm clients.
Online reviews significantly affect potential clients’ decision to choose a law firm. 75% of potential clients who will show up in your law firm office did so because your firm had better reviews than other law firms with the same convenient location.
Most potential clients trust online reviews with the same level of trust as they would have for a personal recommendation from friends and family.
The irony lies in the fact that many clients only take the effort of leaving a review when they had a bad experience. It is a known fact and will not necessarily be an accurate view of your legal services.
While positive reviews provide a positive perception or reputation for your law firm, negative reviews, when properly handled, can also work to the advantage of your law firm.
Taking a Deeper Look at Online Reviews
With the importance of online reviews in creating an excellent reputation for a law firm, you must understand how online reviews work and how it can contribute to your firm’s online reputation.
There are two types of online reviews:
• First-Party Online Reviews
These are direct feedback you get from your firm’s clients. You can take a video interview with your client, interview him over the phone, or ask him to fill out a form. These can then be posted on the website of your law firm.
Aside from being a tool in building an excellent reputation for your law firm, you can use this client feedbacks as a tool for internal assessment of your firm’s processes. These can also help your firm enhance your client’s journey from the intake process, case-related updates in detail to the resolution of his case.
First-party reviews bring the most impact to your website. Try to include a photo of your client in the report for more personalization and added value to the experience of your potential clients.
• Third-Party Reviews
Your client is the one responsible for leaving a review on other sites or platforms other than on your law firm’s website. In short, your law firm is not directly involved in collecting third-party reviews.
Your client can leave an unbiased review on such sites as Google, Avvo, Facebook Reviews, Yelp, or other online review sites.
How to Manage Online Reviews
Online reviews, as has been repeatedly mentioned, have a vital role in building a reputation for your law firm. As such, it is also crucial that you know how to manage your firm’s online reviews.
To effectively manage your law firm’s reviews, you need to respond to both positive and negative reviews and to use them as an opportunity to sell and promote your firm as well as to enhance its reputation.
Appropriately responding to reviews is as important as the reviews themselves. Both have an impact on reputation management. Ideally, you would like your firm’s reports to be positive mostly but you need to be ready with negative reviews because you cannot please everyone.
It is essential to respond to both positive and negative reviews.
Positive reviews demand simple responses such as a “thank you,” “it was great to be of service to you,” “we are glad to have helped with your legal concerns.”
Responding to a negative review can be more unpleasant and painful than responding to a positive review. It also allows you to repair the damage to the reputation of your law firm by explaining what happened and offering to remedy any issues.
A negative review gives you a chance to take responsibility for what may have happened, which resulted in a poor experience for the client.
The best way to deal with a negative review is to respond decisively to the client who is claiming to have had a bad experience with your firm. You can also offer an apology for the negative experience of the client.
These responses will make your law firm appear caring and impressive for owning up to the negative experience of a client.
Responding to a negative review should only include an apology, stating your view about the situation, and stating what you can do to correct the situation or issue. In responding to a negative review, you should never argue or start a debate with the client.
Responding to a negative review, especially when posted on a review site (third-party review) shows that your law firm is attentive and cares about its clients’ satisfaction and how they feel about the experience with your law firm.
You should never respond to a negative review from an emotional point of view, especially when the study has appeared on review sites. Sad to say, many law firms and lawyers respond to negative reviews posted on review sites in a hostile manner.
It should not be the case because you will never “win: against a client. Whether a client’s complaint is valid or not or whether you perceive the client to be wrong, you should be keen and calm in responding to a client’s claim.
It will work to the advantage of your law firm if you hire a professional dedicated to handling the reputation management efforts of your firm. He will be able to present the character of your firm with a concerned tone and show clients that you value their feedback and accept criticisms.
When negative feedbacks are answered, with an apologetic and respectful tone, your law firm will be able to cast any doubts potential clients may have of your firm because of this negative feedback. Effectively dealing with negative reviews can reverse the tide and bring public favor to the side of your law firm.
Every negative review is an opportunity to improve something in your law firm.
The Importance of Reputation Management
Building an excellent online reputation is an integral part of the digital marketing efforts of a law firm. The status of your law firm is essential in every step of your clients’ journey with your firm.
Surveys on behaviors of legal consumers consider a law firm’s reputation as one of the critical factors they take into consideration before hiring its services. Online reviews play the most prominent role in building a reputation for your law firm.
Most potential clients consider online reviews as necessary as an in-person recommendation (recommendation from family and friends). Many prospective clients read as much as ten or more studies before trusting a law firm.
Experts point out that both positive and negative reviews are relevant. Positive reviews speak of the success of a law firm. Negative studies, on the other hand, show how a law firm treats or deals with clients.
The content and volume of your law firm’s online reviews can boost your brand and improve your online presence, thus presenting you as an expert in your locality. All these contribute to the reputation of your firm. Also boosted, are your chances, and it also increases your chances of getting clients to opt for your firm.
As a lawyer, you are trained to present concrete and credible evidence in the courtroom to make your case. Your potential client will make his decision to choose your law firm based on emotions.
Your potential clients want to feel that they made a wise and educated choice. They will look for evidence to provide themselves right, and the experiences of other clients who hired you will justify their decision.
Online reviews are essential because of reputation management. They are also important because it can positively impact the digital marketing campaign of your law firm. An excellent digital marketing campaign indirectly affects the reputation of your law firm because it builds-up your firm’s credibility.
Without any reviews, your law firm may not have a good search engine ranking. Many negative reviews may also bring down the rank of your law firm in search engine result pages. A top-level in search engine results pages makes your firm highly visible on the internet and builds its reputation as well.
The importance of reputation management should never be ignored. The reputation of your law firm will dictate whether your law firm is a winning or losing proposition.